Author Archive for Phil Klutts

Would you get married before going on a date?

You don’t have to get people to buy from you in the first sentence. You don’t even have to get them to give you money in the first conversation. This realization was vital to me when I started doing sales and business development. The trick is to think about a journey, not a single transaction. There are all kinds of courses, marketing funnels, pipeline, and sales processes that address this concept in detail. It is important to have a broad understanding before you get too far into such technical details.

I have found that a simple mindset helped me understand this at a high level. Here’s my framework to get started in a marketing or sales conversation.

I break my conversations and messages into three stages: Aware, Attract, Commit.

First, I want people to be aware of what I’m offering or proposing. When it appears my prospect is a good fit then I want to attract them with more details. Finally, if the conversation is still going well then I want to get a commitment. It could take a few minutes or months to walk through this process. It all depends on the size and impact. Trying to jump straight to commitment is like walking down the aisle before meeting your bride.

You can apply this framework to many different situations such as selling a product or service to a customer, getting your manager to approve your project, convincing your neighbor to help pay for a broken fence, and many more situations.

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Negotiating: Why you should improve and the simple method to do it

Negotiations happen every day by almost all of us. It might not be extreme as getting a hostage out of a bank. Negotiating your way through a car sales deal doesn’t happen very often either. So what are we negotiating? 

Negotiating happens in so many of our day-to-day activities. Examples include picking what restaurant to order for dinner, getting your children to go to bed on time, and how to split up the chores with a spouse or a roommate. Often stress starts to increase when the stakes get bigger, like when you think about buying a car or figuring out lease terms with a landlord. 

Most people do not like negotiating. If you want to be successful in business, then you must get over your fear and dislike of negotiations. We know that behavior drives results yet sometimes we forget that there is a step before our behaviors. There is a common and very relevant concept that your thinking drives your behavior. You won’t have good outcomes if you think negotiations are scary or hard or that you always lose. 

So before you try to improve your negotiation tactics and skills you have to fix your mindset. Here are three simple things to do to help: 

  1. Think collaboratively. Approach a situation trying to find a win-win outcome. It is almost always possible for both parties in a negotiation to walk away feeling good with the outcome. 
  2. Know there is common ground. At some level, there is common ground with everyone, especially your negotiating counterpart. Start with the fact that you are both human and get more specific from there until you get as granular as possible. 
  3. Relax. Don’t let your emotions run wild. Slow down, recognize, and address your emotions. Embrace whatever fear or anxiety you have then proceed through it. Chances are your counterpart feels some of the same things. 

There are plenty of tactics, skills, and approaches to help with negotiations but none of them will be successful with the wrong mindset. Begin by recognizing and improving your mental model about negotiations. 

Simple steps to create your vision

Last week I discussed why it is important to have a Vision for your business. You can read it HERE if you missed it

This week I show you how to create your vision. 

Like diet and exercise, it is one thing to know something is important and another thing to actually do it. I’ve found when it comes to VISION that there are 4 common mistakes that plaque leaders: 

  1. Not creating a vision at all;
  2. Not making the vision clear enough;
  3. Failure to adequately communicate; and
  4. Lack of follow-through. 

Have any of these mistakes plagued you? This post will address the first two mistakes about vision: creating and clarifying your vision. I will address the latter two mistakes in a later blog post. 

Preparing to Cast Your Vision: 

It is important to properly prepare for creating your vision. This process should not be taken lightly or be left to chance. You are already on-board with the importance of this by reading this blog post. You know a vision is important and you want to set the destination of your business well enough to find the success you know is available. 

Here are my preparation tips: 

  • Have a dedicated time set aside. Depending on the size and maturity of your business. I would plan for 1-3 hours to fully define and articulate your vision.
  • Have a dedicated space. Typically, your normal office has too many distractions for this type of deep visioning work. This is why so many leadership teams use off-site meetings. Find a space that is clear of distractions.
  • Have a whiteboard. Markerboards with dry erase markers are essential for me to do this type of visioning. Some people will use an electronic method (Lucidchart,, google doc, or something similar) but I am still sold on the value of a board on the wall.
  • Involve the right people. If you are the sole business owner and single, then you can probably do this alone. For everyone else, spouses and business partners or executive leadership is required to ensure everyone is on the same page.
  • Use a facilitator. The services of a coach or consultant can greatly increase your success in vision casting. And I’m not just saying that to get you as a customer (although shamelessly I’m here for that too). I sat down with a coach last week to work on my business and this was part of the conversation. I can tell you it’s helpful to have an outsider’s perspective during this process.

The Process

Now that you have the time, tools, and space it is time to begin casting your vision. These steps are the basic outline of what I do to help my clients cast their vision. The process works if you do. 

  1. Pick a time in the future. My default is Five Years in the future but that can change based on your business. 
  2. Imagine the world is perfect. There are no global pandemics wreaking havoc or insane market depressions that affect you. What if things were as perfect as they could be in this timeframe? 
  3. Begin brainstorming and brain-dumping what your business would look like. This is where the whiteboard comes in handy. Be as descriptive as you can be and include all aspects of your business: 
    1. Size (in terms of staff, total revenue, etc.)
    2. Space (location, offices, etc.)
    3. Service (what do you offer, business lines, categories, etc.)
    4. Customers (how many, who is your ideal customer)
    5. Impact and Community (how do you give back, what does your network look like)
    6. Time and Positions (Who spends what time working on what job? Are you active in the business or have you hired a CEO or other roles?) 
    7. Anything else that comes to mind about your business
  4. Refine your brainstorming into a mental picture and written description of what your business will look like. 
  5. TAKE A BREAK. 15 – 30 minutes of something other than vision casting. I recommend at least a walk around the building to get in a different headspace before proceeding. 
  6. Review your vision and make any changes that come to mind. 

Now you have a vision of where you are leading your business! The final step is to clarify and ensure you didn’t miss anything. 


The best way to clarify your vision is to share it with a few key individuals or groups to see if it has enough clarity and you didn’t miss a blindspot. The best way to get this step done is to illicit help from someone who knows something about you and your business. Here’s a list of people that are usually in a good place to help you clarify: business coach, board of advisors, mentor, spouse, key employees/managers.

Clarity is not about changing your vision or making it into something that someone else wants. Clarifying your vision ensures you don’t have any blindspots or assumptions. Sometimes our mind makes connections that aren’t clear to others and we have to be more specific or reveal additional information. This step in seeking clarity gives you the chance to add any needed details. 

Send an email to to learn more or get help creating a vision for your business.

Where Are You Going?

Imagine packing your car for a vacation. What do you put in? Do you have enough clothes for 3 days or 8? Are there long-sleeves, tank tops; jeans or shorts? Do you know where you are going or where you will sleep? What if you are driving to the airport to fly to another country? Would you pack differently to board a plane than you would if you were driving to the beach a few states away? 

Some business owners put significant time and effort into planning their summer vacation to the Caribbean and little to no effort into planning where they want their business to be in 3-5 years. 

Your business should have a destination and planning as detailed as your vacations. This destination can be best summarized as your Vision Statement. Your vision statement should be detailed, just like you know where you are going and how long you will stay during a vacation. It should leave little to the imagination. 

Dr. Steven Covey best describes this idea in the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. The 2nd habit is “Begin with the end in mind.” Dr. Covey explains that physical creation can only follow mental creation. As a business leader, you must have the habit of creating a vision for the future. You can read more from

I understood this topic of vision casting much better after building a house. My wife and I searched for over a year for the best house plan. Then we worked with an architect and a designer to make changes and improvements based on our needs, desires, and tastes. The process took countless hours and discussions before a single bit of raw materials was purchased or delivered. As the general contractor, I worked with all of our trades to make sure the house was built the way we designed it. Having the right blueprints and vision were essential to getting this process done right. A vision statement serves the same purpose as a blueprint for a home. 

Your business vision is important! Regardless of whether you gravitate towards thoughts of vacation planning or home building, you have to set a vision for your company and document it properly. 

In our next post, we’ll examine a few ways to start your vision statement. Subscribe below to find out how to set your vision: 

Business Values Are The First Step To Success

Can writing down your values help eliminate chaos?

Your immediate answer maybe no, but I’ve found the opposite to be true. Values that are clearly articulated and properly used in a business will remove many subtle hurdles. These subtle hurdles compound to create a level of chaos that is hard to remove without going down to the very base of a company’s foundation. 

I am not the only one to think so. Harvard Business Review has almost 5,000 (4,951 on the day I checked) articles and case studies that focus on Values and Strategy. Some of the case studies are very intriguing. How does a food and beverage company grow rapidly during an economic downturn? I’ll give you a hint, it involves values. 

Company values are part of the foundation needed to have a successful business. 

Values should be defined and communicated by founders and senior leaders. Core Values should guide every decision in the organization. If the business moves in a direction that conflicts with the core or stretch values then it is time to re-evaluate either the strategy or the stated values. It is not wrong to change your values or change your strategy. But your values and strategy have to be in alignment for your business to succeed in the long term. 

Defining values for your company doesn’t have to be difficult, although a few factors can cause the task to be burdensome. These factors include the age and maturity of the business, number of employees, size and diversity of the leadership team, and variety of the operations. A small, local business that is run by the founder can often work through the process in less than a day. 

Different Types of Values

There are three types of values you need to think about for your business. You do not have to define each kind, but it is important to distinguish between them to understand the difference.

Understood Values: Values that are baseline to most businesses and understood to be in the market. Things like Honesty and Respect usually fall into this category. If a business openly advertised as not being honest, would you do business with them? It is best to define these and understand them but not to spend too much time dedicated to them. The open market and your company culture should actively weed out anything that is not congruent with understood values. 

Stretch Values: Values that you wish to hold in your company but you do not currently have are called stretch values. These values can be aspirational and are good to hold in the minds of your leadership team and employees. Your current decisions and strategy may not reflect stretch values due to your business model, the economy, or other hindrance. Working these values takes time and effort and usually a culture change within your organization. Stretch values should be part of your vision casting and future dreams of your company. 

Core Values: Core Values are deeply ingrained and not compromised in your business. These are the values you should spend the most time and energy on. These are above and beyond the Understood Values and are specific to your business. Core Values, when used and communicated properly, give your employees a sense of security and belonging. Core Values are the building blocks of your culture. 

Defining and following your company values will decrease the chaos and increase your success and satisfaction. You shouldn’t let your strategy, culture, and success be left up to chance. Spending time on your values is the first step to reaping the rewards of a successful business foundation.

Not sure where to start on defining your values?

You can easily define values for your business. Use the form below to get my FREE list of over 475 values to begin choosing which ones are right for your company. 

Out of Alignment: A Personal Story

Goals are a tool used to get you from where you are to where you want to be. Goals and motivations are linked and they won’t be very effective without each other. If you set your goals based on the wrong motivations then you will not be satisfied when you reach your goals. In fact, I’ve found that if your motivation is not true, you may not even make it to your goal. The same is true in your business. If goals, vision, structure, etc. are not aligned then you will not find success. That’s why our web address is “Align To Succeed.”

Think about when the wheels on your car are out of alignment. You have to pull the steering wheel to keep the car going where you want it to go. It takes extra effort to drive to your destination if your car is not aligned. Tires will be worn, low gas mileage and overall poor performance result from your wheels being out of alignment. This is exactly how it happens in your life.

This happened to me several years ago. I set a goal to run a marathon ( and was prepared to do it. I had run the half marathon the year before (this was the furthest I had ever run) and I was prepared to make it the whole 26.2. I had all the gear: running shoes, running tights, gloves, reflectors, bluetooth earbuds… I had the schedule: training, rest, cross training, etc. I even had the accountability. I told friends and family; I had a coworker running the same training schedule. Everything was set, planned and ready for a huge goal. Then I skipped a run, or two. I didn’t stretch enough or properly. I dropped a cross training day. But I was okay, I could get my long run in on Saturday and be back on track. And I did, for a while. My knee started to hurt, a lot! I dropped my long runs in favor of not being in pain all the time. I could run if I stopped to stretch every couple of miles. I was miserable. I wasn’t going to achieve my goal and I was struggling to accept my defeat. I went to the race that year but I ran the half marathon instead of the whole 26.2 miles. I failed to reach my goal.

2015 marathon picAfter my disappointing half marathon.

Don’t let the smile fool you, I was in pain!

Why did I fail? My goal of a marathon was misaligned with the rest of my life. Hindsight is great; now that I look back I know exactly why I didn’t succeed. I wanted to run a marathon to check off a box. I wanted to run a marathon for the sake of running a marathon. I didn’t really have any other motivation than that. And that wasn’t enough. When sleep was an option, or I was in pain, or my kids wanted to play I chose the things that had a true motivation in my life rather than the misaligned goal of a marathon.

Don’t get me wrong: I think running a marathon is a noble thing and I still would love to complete it someday. At that time, I was not in a place where a goal with such a huge commitment was properly placed in my life. When I’m ready, I’ll run a marathon someday.

Doing what it takes to achieve your goals will mean sacrifice. It does not matter what your goal is if you aren’t prepared to pay the price to reach it then it will not be worth it. Jesus tells the story like this, “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’” (Luke 14:28-30) Jesus says if you aren’t willing to sacrifice then you can’t be his disciple. The same teaching applies to our goals. The cost of achieving your goals means sacrificing other things. It could be money, time, family, career, enjoyment, comfort, or something else. If what you sacrifice is aligned with your values and closer to your motivations then your goal will rip you apart from your true self.

You don’t have to let this happen to you or your business. Align the vision, structure, and systems in your business to lead you to success. When it gets tough, and it will, you will be ready to face the adversity because you know your goals support where you want to go.


(This post was originally published on

Introducing the CK Group

There are many ways to find success in your business. I’ve had personal success being self-employed, in small business, and in a Fortune 200 company. Success has looked different in each situation and it must take different forms based on where, how, and who is involved. If you own or run a small business then it is up to you to drive success in your business.

I want to help you find that success.

My desire to help others started when I was young and has taken many different forms throughout the years. I started my career as a Personal Trainer, helping others reach their health and fitness goals. It took a deep level of passion to find clients, understand their goals, design plans, then coach clients to success. I loved it but felt there was more I could to do help people. From there I transitioned to an emergency medical technician, helping others in their most vulnerable health and safety situations. I learned a lot about training, systems, preparation, and perspective. The work of an EMT was fulfilling but I found that I missed the business aspect.

I went back to school to learn more about business and earned an MBA from Oklahoma Christian University. Since then I’ve spent over a decade working in business. I find great satisfaction in business by building value, streamlining operations, creating and communicating vision, and more. I’ve found there are two things that must happen to create the most success in business: Creating Clarity and Eliminating Chaos.

My goal for this website and my company, CK Group LLC, is to help you eliminate chaos and create clarity in your business.

As much as I enjoy it, I don’t spend my entire life in business. I spend as much time as I can with my beautiful wife and 2 strong boys. We play, camp, learn, travel, and so much more together. You can find some of our adventures over at